The Baltic Sea Philharmonic made a thrilling debut at the Birgitta Festival, Estonia’s annual music theatre festival, on 12 August. The orchestra and its conductor Kristjan Järvi presented their unique take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, performing Järvi’s own arrangement of Sibelius’s masterful theatre music alongside other works by Sibelius, Järvi and Baltic Sea Philharmonic harpist Liis Jürgens. The orchestra performed the entire programme from memory and without intermission. With no music stands on stage, the musicians were free to move and interact with each other, and the dynamic choreography, with players changing places, moving across the stage and among the audience, dancing and play-fighting, all underscored the drama of Shakespeare’s play. The immersive performance also featured atmospheric lighting and sound design, as well as original projection art. The audio-visual concept was done by Sunbeam Productions.
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic collaborated in The Tempest with soloist Mari Meentalo on the Estonian bagpipes. She also had a striking role in Kristjan Järvi’s Midnight Sun and in addition she played the mouth harp in Jürgens’ The Dream of Tabu-tabu. The orchestra’s programme included another celebrated work by Sibelius in the shape of his 1895 tone poem The Swan of Tuonela from The Lemminkaïnen Suite, and five other pieces by Kristjan Järvi – Life Lives Ethereal, Frozen Tears, Runic Prayer, Aurora and Ascending Swans, which is based on the Song of Praise from Sibelius’s Swanwhite Suite.
The Birgitta Festival concert, which took place in the ruins of the 15th-century Pirita convent in Tallinn, was sold out, with around 850 people in the audience. It came a month after the Baltic Sea Philharmonic made a memorable debut at Estonia’s Pärnu Music Festival, performing four concerts in as many days. In a 2022 season focused on Estonia, the orchestra will return to Tallinn next month as part of its ‘Meresillad’ tour of Germany and Estonia (15–21 September). This tour, the Estonian language title of which translates as ‘sea bridges’, will celebrate Estonia and also the deep connections between the countries of the Baltic Sea region. The programme includes music by Estonian composers past and present, with works by Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Jaan Rääts (1932–2020) and Liis Jürgens. It also features Kristjan Järvi’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker as a Dramatic Symphony, a work which completes Järvi’s trilogy of adaptations of the Russian composer’s ballets, after Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The ‘Meresillad’ tour will take the orchestra to Eisenach (15 September) and the Usedom Music Festival (17 September) before the tour concludes in Tallinn on 21 September with a concert at the Estonia Concert Hall.